Wednesday, September 2

GM Benjamin Gives Advice to Parents of Young Talents

"Hi GM Joel, My son is 8-year-old with a rating of 1600. He consistently beats lower rated players simply because he waits until his opponent blunders. He often lost to higher rated players because they don't blunder and his positions are getting worse and worse. Based on the feedback I have, including from his coach, a local IM, he often doesn't have a plan and sometimes he makes mistakes in the opening. He reacts to his opponents' moves, even when playing White."

To read the response by 3-time US Champion GM Joel Benjamin (see photo), go to Chess Life Online. This article should be interesting and relevant for many families in the Bay Area and around the country. Frankly, I must add that I completely agree with the advice from GM Benjamin. Here are a few key quotes:

"Ratings improve because children develop certain skills that are strong enough to defeat players at certain levels, but it doesn’t mean that all their skills have reached that level."

"To me, improvement is a long-term, ongoing process, that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in wins in the next tournament."

"Every player is competing against the game, to unlock its secrets and become stronger. What other people (families) are doing—and what their ratings are--should not affect your own approach."

You may also wish to browse through other tidbits of advice that I have blogged about over the past year and a half, including my suggestion for how much to practice and appropriate parental behavior at tournaments.


bfn said...

Do you have any advice on when to seek out another chess teacher. My son is rated just over expert and is taking lessons from a master.

fpawn said...

If your son is over 2000, then you definitely should consider finding a stronger coach, probably at least IM level. If the student is within 200 points of the teacher, then the student starts being able to outplay the teacher, at least sometimes.

Here are a few questions to consider:

* Does student still feel like he learns from teacher?
* How often does student outplay teacher in an exercise or a training game?
* Can teacher guide student to learn on his own, outside of class?
* Have student and teacher developed a special rapport over time that you don't want to break?

I will conclude by noting that most kids benefit from listening to different coaches. Each person emphasizes something else and a smart student can pull out the best from each (younger kids may struggle more than teenagers).

Although I work with kids as high as 2300 (which is above my own rating), the teaching relationship changes a bit above 2100. Fortunately, all of my 2050+ kids have benefited from programs through the US Chess School or the Mechanics' Institute. They all have learned from group classes with veteran Grandmasters, and in some cases, individual classes. My job is now is to guide them--and chew them out when they mess up.

I hope that helps!

bfn said...

Thanks! Your comments were very helpful. It's hard to find a good coach that can work well with kids, so once you find a good one, it's hard to switch.

bfn said...

If I see you at an upcoming National tournament, I'll introduce myself and ask for a teacher recommendation. I see that you are not taking new students (from your ICC post). By that time, I think my son might be ready for a new teacher.

fpawn said...

Yes, I already have a large load of students. While I always can make room for the "right kid," I am also quite picky, especially for out of state. Only two of my current students live outside for the San Francisco Bay Area. There's something to be said for having a local teacher, someone whom you can actually meet face to face (even if only occasionally).

I also would hesitate to teach a new kid already rated near 2000. Frankly, a kid at that level may still learn some concepts from me, but would easily learn more from a stronger teacher.